June 04, 2007

You know...

...if the instructions say it can safely be assembled by no less than three people working cooperatively, it's probably a good bet they didn't just pull that number out of a hat.


I only need a ten year old girl!


Because I am a moron.

ANYway, after the deck had dried sufficiently and I had gotten the big box out of the garage, the moment of truth arrived, accompanied by Catherine, who wanted to get into that box with all of her being.

Laid it on the ground, cut loose the binding, and opened it up, whereupon she pounced on the bubble wrap and loose assemblage. "DO YOU NEED THIS, DADDY!?"

"Not yet, please put it back."


"NO, please put it down."




"Look, I know you want to help, but I need to figure this out and read the instructions and make sure all the parts are here and if you keep plundering through this stuff I'm not going to be able to put it together so could you PLEASE stop touching everything until I tell you to and PLEASE be quiet so I can read with this says and DON'T MESS WITH ANYTHING."

"I was just tryin' to help.'

Awww. Poor lil' girl, bless her heart.

But don't touch anything.

Actually, it's a pretty simple thing. Four corners made up of two pieces bolted together, four thin beams, four roof supports with four corner supports, some shelves, and a fabric roof and mosquito net. A few bolts, some clips, and all is well.

I got Catherine to be helpful and go get my socket set out of the garage, because I wasn't going to use that silly flat wrench included in the hardware--it'd take forEVER.

Read some more, then here came Cat with my tools, which she plopped down onto the deck and opened, spilling out ever single socket in the box.


Reason #2391903 why things take so long to get done at my house, and why I have prematurely gray hair. We picked up all the shiny things and put them back in their numbered locations, then bolted together the corner pieces.

Then, after that, I got to looking at that tree.

I stood up one of the corners, and figured once the roof was on, it was going to be somewhat close to the lower branches on the pine tree.



"Okay, Cat--help me move all this stuff off the deck."

In yet another exercise in slowing things down, I decided to cut those lower limbs off. Got out the pruning saw (the one I'd nearly cut my thumb off with many, many years ago) and started making a big mess. Those limbs looked so much smaller when they were way up in the air attached to a tree.

Four big limbs came crashing down, along with a couple of smaller ones, and they were dutifully stacked at the side of the house to await brush pickup day.

While I was wrestling with a long-leaf pine, the children were off playing with the newest toy in the yard, a Hula Hoop. Jonathan, being a boy, delighted in throwing it up high in the air. Jonathan, being my son, was surprised when it got caught in the top of the maple tree.



Well, that's okay--it's not like I'm not already nearly dead anyway from my unnatural exertions of the day, and not at all like I'm not yet certain if I'm going to get this CLFP assembled before nightfall. Let me take some more time to rescue a thin cheap plastic torus from its arboreal assailant.

Since I still had the pole lopper in my hand, I figured I'd see if it would reach. Extended it all the way out and found it was short by approximately a foot.



Went and got the big steel folding ladder, since I was going to need it later for the roof of the playhouse anyway, and to change out that light fixture. Unfolded it, and successfully rescued the Hula Hoop. AND the precursor--a plastic glow-in-the-dark necklace Jonathan had thrown in the exact same tree in nearly the exact same place back about six months ago.

NOW THEN, to assemble the gazebo.

Fastened the thin beams to the corners and stood it up. Now to get it square. Since I was now so discombobulated and heat-strokey, I couldn't readily add up the required numbers to make sure it was centered on the platform, so I got Cat to run get my dimension calculator from the house.

Punched in the numbers and determined I needed 2 1/4 inches on each of the long sides, and 3/4 inches on each of the short sides. Or vice-versa. I tried to explain what I was doing, but Catherine seemed confused. It could have been because I was babbling.

Centered it up, and tacked it down to the platform, hoping it won't blow too far away in the next tornado. Now time for the roof supports.

THIS is when you need three people to work on it.

Like wrestling a big metal four-legged spider. BUT, I did, after much straining and grunting and unsaid oaths manage to get all four corners neatly clicked into place. It's looking very nice, I must say.

Time for the fabric cover.

THIS is when you need three people to work on it.

Or more.

BUT, I did, after much straining and grunting and unsaid oaths and the introduction of the steel ladder manage to stretch the fabric over the framework. It was very, VERY difficult to do, especially without anyone holding the opposite end--like putting a too-tight sheet onto a mattress (or a too-tight fabric cover on a flimsy metal gazebo frame), one side would pop up when I tugged the opposite side down.

I did get it attached, though. And all the little hook-and-loop straps fastened.

Boy, was I tired.

Time for the mosquito netting. It fits under the skirt of the fabric cover, which means I probably should have put it on first. Sure would have been a lot easier.

Attached all the little plastic shower curtan rings to the loops, then spent the next half hour with my hands up above my head making my arms ache attaching each little ring to the metal beam that ran around the thing. And mightily tugging the fabric cover up and down to cover the top edge of the netting. AND stopping to dig up one of Reba's rose bushes that was at the corner of the platform, threatening to open great big holes in the netting.


It looks just like the picture. Sorta.

Now then, since it was nearing sunset, it was time for the final project of the day, installing that light fixture on the corner.

Reba and the two older girls left to go pick up some Chinese food for supper, so I was left alone with the two younger kids, who by this late time had already gone inside and gotten their baths and washed their hair.

I was cleaning up my mess and saw Boy come outside--"Mom said I should keep an eye on you."

Mom was right--I'd spent all day on various CLFP-related tasks, and I was very tired and my shoulders and arms ached mightily from all that overhead fidgeting with tiny frustrating parts. I really didn't need to be climbing a ladder.

But I am a moron.

Got my fixture and my shiny new bulbs and put them in the old rocking chair on the patio and got the ladder moved over to its new spot.

Rest for a minute.

Looked at the old chair--it's far past time to throw it away. I'd bought it while I was down at Auburn and so it's set outside for twenty years now, and its rockers are rotted off and its wobbly. Time to give it a decent burial. I was absent-mindedly tilting it back and forth to finish breaking off the one final bit of rocker, when my package of brand new compact fluorescent bulbs ever so slowly tipped forward and floated to the ground below the chair. Only about a foot of drop. It landed gently on the metal ladder.



I hoped against hope I'd not broken the thing, but when I picked up the package (it was a two pack) I heard the tell-tale tinkle of broken glass inside.


At least it didn't creat a toxic cloud of mercury. The interior swirly cone was still intact--it was only the exterior reflector and lens that broke. I thought long and hard about trying to figure out how to reuse it anyway, but even I'm not that big of a moron.

Well crap.

Got Boy to help me fold the ladder out straight, and then hoisted it up against the side of the house. Got my small electric screwdriver (the single cell one that wouldn't have worked on the deck screws) and put it in my pocket.

"Okay, now Jonathan, I want you to stand here and hold this ladder, okay? And before I get up there, let me ask you this--if I fall, what should you do?"

And now, back to the first post of the morning--"Catch you?"

"NO! You call 9-1-1! Buddy, you'd kill yourself trying to catch me--just run and call 9-1-1 as quick as you can and don't try to catch me!"

Up the ladder.

You know, one of the things I do not miss at all about working for an architecture firm is climbing ladders. I used to have to go do roof inspections, and there was nothing I hated more. And, of course, you have to just John Wayne-it up and not act like it bothers you, but I never did really get over having to do it. And still dislike heights, but when something has to be fixed, it has to be fixed, and by golly, I had about 30 minutes of daylight left, and I wasn't about to be defeated.

So, up the ladder. The springy steel ladder, shimmying and shaking and swaying and gyrating like a young Kate Pierson. I don't know if it was simply the nature of the construction of the ladder or fear making itself known through involuntary muscle twitches in my legs. In any event, I got all the way to the eave of the house, which is two stories high. Or about 240 inches, for those of you who use the metric system. I carefully reached over to the fixture and unscrewed on bulb, then let it drop to Jonathan below, who caught it like a champ. Unscrewed the next bulb, and let it drop away to be caught again. Now the fun part.

Got out my screwdriver and reached over to unscrew the two screws holding it to the plywood of the eave, trying to figure out if I DID happen to start falling, if I could hold onto the gutter or downspout enough to slow me down to less than terminal velocity. Probably not. Undid the screws, dropped one, pocketed the other, and pulled the wiring down. Uncoupled the wire nuts holding everything together, and then remembered that maybe it would have been good to have turned off the power. Especially since I was high atop a steel ladder.

Resolved to be extra EXTRA careful, I put the wire nuts back on the service wires and dropped the fixture to the ground.

Down the swaying ladder, on the ground, got the new fixture and hardware out, made a preliminary adjustment to the bulb holders to aim the light the right way, and back up the ladder.


"Right, Daddy!"

Got to the top and got the wires hooked back up without electrocuting myself, poked them back up into the attic and began the delicate process of screwing the fixture back onto the eave. Did it. Whew. Nothing dropped. Not even me.

Back down the ladder, and the issue of new bulbs.

Obviously, since the hard part was done, I couldn't very well wait about the bulbs--I needed them, and I needed them now. It was 7:45.

Told Jonathan to stay in the house, and I gathered up a tired, wetheaded Catherine to go look for a replacement.


Closed at 7.


Every type of bulb, except compact fluorescent floodlamps.

Home Depot?

Got 'em and headed home.

Home, and saw that Reba and the girls had just gotten home with supper, but by now I was not the least bit hungry. Too hot, too tired, too sore.

Back up the ladder, clutching both bulbs and the ladder with equal ferocity. Screwed them in, back down the ladder.

Went to the light switch at the back door, and...

Yeah, I know--I was half-expecting them not to work, either, but both of them lit up and shone right where they needed to. And it was good.

Now then, that UNbroken bulb from the first pack. I had a burnt out bulb on the front corner of the house, so I folded the ladder back down in half, hauled it to the front corner (blessedly only 8 feet off the ground) and changed out the old bulb for the new, and reaimed the fixture to that it actually shone on the driveway instead of the wall of the house behind the holly bush.

Put away the ladder, and that, my friends, all twelve hours of it, was my Saturday.

I ate a little bowl of soup, went upstairs, showered, and hit the hay.


Yes, there's SUNDAY in the mix, too!

NEXT: Christmas shopping, and VBS!

Posted by Terry Oglesby at June 4, 2007 12:23 PM

So are you planning on going all Lileks on this, and enjoying a post-prandial cigar and snifter out in the CFCP? I'm looking forward to the stories if you decide to put in a water feature...

Hopefully, you and Miss Reba will be able to have a few nights this summer where the two of you can sit out and enjoy the fruits of your labor...assuming the *other* four fruits of your labor are off at the homes of various friends.

Posted by: Diane at June 4, 2007 01:52 PM

Yes, I believe I will now take up drinking and smoking, having cheated the Grim Reaper this weekend.

As for the water feature, we've already got one--the frog fountain outside the kitchen window already provides a melodic tinkling of fluid sounds, as well as a nice vector breeding ground for bird flu, encephalitis, and malaria.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at June 4, 2007 02:14 PM

You are, without any doubt, the perfect example of manliness, suburban homeowner, and Home Depot marketing success.

My arms hurt from reading about it. So glad 911 wasn't required.

Posted by: Nate at June 4, 2007 02:23 PM

I cook and clean and sew, too.

And I rarely pick my nose in public.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at June 4, 2007 02:34 PM

But, but do you Dress funny too?

Posted by: Chef Tony at June 4, 2007 07:03 PM

Not intentionally.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at June 5, 2007 07:25 AM